Rory McIlroy is a native Northern Irishman, but the superstar golfer has decided that he will represent Ireland at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
According to The Irish Open on Twitter, McIlroy made the announcement Wednesday as golf is set to be added to the Olympic program in two years:
McIlroy had a choice between representing either Ireland or Great Britain. Team GB encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and McIlroy's native Northern Ireland, but he wanted to continue playing for Ireland after having done so in the past, per Karl MacGinty and Ralph Riegel of The Independent.
I see this as a continuation of what I have always done. I have been thinking about it a lot. I don't know if it is because the World Cup is in Brazil and I was thinking a couple of years down the line. I was thinking about all the times I have played for Ireland as a boy and everything. For me it is the right decision to play for Ireland.
The 25-year-old McIlroy is a two-time major winner and currently ranks as the No. 6 player in the world. He seems to be back on track in 2014 after a disastrous 2013 season, so there is little doubt that he will be among the top contenders in Rio.
Due to the fact that gold hasn't been part of the Olympic program since 1904, it can easily be argued that the 2016 Summer Games tournament will hold even more prestige than any major possibly could.
The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship occur on a yearly basis, but golf has not been contested at the Olympics for well over a century.
Golf could quickly become one of the most popular Olympic sports as it has a worldwide following and so much depth that any number of different players could conceivably come out on top.
McIlroy will be in the mix provided he remains healthy and in form, and it will be interesting to see if someone like Tiger Woods will be in position to take part in the Summer Olympics two years down the road.
There is little doubt that McIlroy will have to deal with some stiff competition when the time comes, but he has an opportunity to be a true hero in Ireland by winning Olympic gold.
This decision could just as easily irk Northern Ireland and Team GB as a whole, but McIlroy can't be blamed for making a choice he feels comfortable with.
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